On keeping books

Books. They're pretty involved in my life. I'm pretty involved in books, I like to think. Whether reading, writing, talking about or buying, I have chosen to make my living - hopefully - through books. I like them.

A lot of book people - all? - have a thing for the physical aspects of a book. Touch, design, layout, smell, feel - they all matter. They're all good. How you choose to display books is up to you. There are plenty of bookshelves in the world, and plenty of amazing, quirky, brilliant designs (you can see some great ones I found recently over on my tumblr - just scroll down a bit).

Part of one of my own shelves, avec Gollum.

When I lived in Japan, I had no books. Then I had a couple. Then over the years I got more and more, whether buying them in the few English bookshops I could find, or getting them over, one by one, from England. Eventually - happy day - I bought a bookshelf, and my bedroom was complete again.

Then I moved to the U.S. Moving is hard. Moving books? Harder. They're so flippin' heavy. And somehow two books are three times heavier than one book. How's that work? I don't know. Terry Pratchett does, I suspect, and it's probably quantum.

So I left a lot behind. I left a lot in England, too. It's sad. They're still there, waiting for a new friend to find them.

E-readers, then, can be an interesting topic. They make books cheaper, easier to carry, instantly accessible and quicker to publish. Great! And it is. I mean that. So where does all of that meet with the years and years and decades and centuries of people loving physical, real world books, and still wanting to own them?

I don't know. Sorry if you wanted an answer. I own a Kindle, and think it's brilliant. I have bookshelves, and think they're brilliant too. Probably they do two different things. When I move around, when I fly, when I suddenly want a book that I don't own yet - that's a Kindle moment. When I want to sit for hours in comfort and read and forget the world, forget everything that's not the story - that's a book moment.

There's never going to be a time when physical books go away. They're too ingrained in our culture. They're almost sacrosanct. Burning books is a powerful thing. Burning e-readers isn't quite that bad, yet (I'd be impressed, really, if anyone managed it).

So physical bookshelves, to store and keep physical books, are a great thing. I hope one day to be able to put a copy of EREN on mine. That'd be lovely.

What are your shelves like? Where do you keep your books?


  1. All my books are on shelves. Except for the ones I've written that haven't been published yet...but hopefully one day! I have nothing against e-readers, but my own preference is for an actual book to hold in my hands.

  2. I'm so sad. I recieved a Nook as a present and all I use it for is web browsing and Netflix. I NEED to have a physical book in my hand or filling up yet another bookshelf...I must have the smell of it while I'm reading to really fullfill the reading experience. I'm so addicted. Sometimes I walk thru the Barnes & Noble entrance at the mall specifically for the smell. Sad, eh? But I love them!

  3. I think most people would choose shelves over e-readers in their homes, and e-readers for simple, practical reasons. For example - agents and publishers taking home mss. to read over the weekend would be mad to still print them all off, when an e-reader fits in a bag. Here's a good Q. - old book smell Vs new book smell - which is better?

  4. This inspires me to photograph my bookshelf! I have an "ereader" in that it's on my iPhone and I definitely will never be able to let go of the "real book" experience. Ebooks will never be quite the same really.

  5. Books are just amazing! The feel and smell and just staring at them...something about just having a book nearby is an inspiration for writing itself.

    I will admit, I got me a Nook and haven't done much with it. A part of me is afraid to let go of that real book with the beautiful thick pages. But I think as long as books are read and reading isn't in danger that is what really matters.

    My shelves are crammed of books, trying to have some sort of order and art to it. A moshpit of all sorts of genres.

  6. Moshpit tends to be my own method, though my wife prefers some semblance of order (as you may be able to tell from the photo). Another drawback to the ereader - no organizing or choosing to display books as object d'art in their own right! Our own shelves have various items interspersed - collections from our travels, from our time in Japan, from gifts, swords, etc...

  7. I could not fit everything I wanted to say into a single comment, so I made it into a blog post instead: http://calebsundance.blogspot.com/2012/06/e-readers-vs-books.html